12 December 2020

Chinese Dam Plan Worries India – But Perhaps Excessively

By Sudha Ramachandran

China’s plans to build a hydropower dam across the Yarlung Zangbo River in Medog County in the Tibet Autonomous Region has evoked concern in India and Bangladesh, the lower riparian countries.

Indian officials are warning that China could use the dam to control the flow of the river’s water into northeast India, either shutting off water supply to create a scarcity or suddenly releasing it to trigger flash floods. In Bangladesh, experts fear that China could be damming the water to divert it, causing water scarcity downstream.

The Yarlung Zangbo runs eastward through southern Tibet for around 1,600 kilometers and then swerves southward at the Great Bend to enter India. In India, it flows through the states of Arunachal Pradesh, where it is known as Siang, and Assam, where it is called the Brahmaputra, before flowing into Bangladesh. After being joined by the Ganga in Bangladesh, it empties its waters into the Bay of Bengal.

China's plan to 'WATER BOMB' India


China's unilateral announcement on November 30, that it will build the world's largest hydropower project on the Brahmaputra river, called the Yarlung Tsangpo in Tibet, removes the fig leaf from Beijing's claims that it is sensitive to the concerns of its neighbours.

Especially impacted by this project will be India, Bangladesh and Bhutan.

By announcing the decision at this time, when tensions are high because of China's aggression in Ladakh and mobilisation of troops along the 4,057-km Line of Actual Control, Beijing has made clear that improving ties with India are not important.

The reports in the Chinese Communist Party owned Global Times newspaper are obviously timed to coincide with China's actions along the LAC and consequent severe damage to relations with India.

Writing in the Global Times on December 1, Liu Zongyi, secretary general of the Research Centre for China-South Asia Cooperation at the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, confirmed that the decision to go ahead with the hydropower project had been delayed for many years due to India's protests -- implying that the announcement at this time of tension is deliberate.

China’s COMAC: An Aerospace Minor Leaguer

By Scott Kennedy 

Today our program is issuing a video report, China’s Stalled Aircraft Dreams, which documents China’s failed efforts over many decades to develop their own commercial aircraft. This blogpost elaborates on elements introduced in our video report, providing a fuller picture of China’s aircraft woes and why we believe a sanctions-oriented approach to be wrongheaded. Information for this project was gathered over the past two-and-half years, and included in-depth interviews with aerospace companies, aviation regulators and industry analysts in China, the United States, and Europe.

At the heart of the story sits COMAC, the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China. The U.S. Commerce Department is reportedly considering issuing a rule identifying COMAC and 88 other Chinese firms as associated with China’s military and as “military end-users.” Depending on how it is implemented, American companies could potentially be barred from supplying components to COMAC, which could then result in the grounding of COMAC’s regional jet, the ARJ21, as well as interrupting further development of the C919, a narrow-body jet that China hopes will become its alternative to Boeing’s 737 and Airbus’s A320 and cement China’s status as a high-tech superpower.

China Aiding Rebel Groups in India’s Northeast: Report

By Abhijnan Rej

Bloomberg reported on December 7 that, according to Indian government officials, China is once again aiding rebel groups active in India’s restive Northeast along the India-Myanmar border, resulting in an uptick in violence there since September. According to Indian officials who spoke to the media outlet, “armed groups in Myanmar — including the United Wa State Army and the Arakan Army, which was designated a terrorist organization this year — are acting as Beijing’s proxies by supplying weapons and providing hideouts to insurgent groups in India’s northeastern states.”

The report also added that no fewer than four leaders of separatist groups were in the Chinese city of Kunming for training and acquisition of weapons as late as mid-October. The Chinese Foreign Ministry denied these allegations in written responses to Bloomberg.

India and China have been locked in a tense military standoff in Ladakh since May this year, with both armies clashing mid-June in the Galwan Valley leading to the deaths of 20 Indian soldiers and an unspecified number of People’s Liberation Army casualties. In a military operation in Ladakh between the end of July and beginning of August, India used its secretive Special Frontier Force – a special operations unit under the Research and Analysis Wing, comprised of ethnic Tibetans – raising symbolic stakes for China.

Thailand’s Debt Dilemma

By James Guild

By any measure, Thailand’s dependence on foreign markets and visitors has made it especially vulnerable to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Foreign tourists brought in about $62 billion in 2019, and total goods exported reached $245 billion. Obviously these sectors will take a huge hit this year, but the news is not all bad. Because of the way the country has structured its public finances and economy, it has quite a bit of fiscal space to combat the deleterious effects of the pandemic.

Thailand has very favorable terms of trade, running a current account surplus of $38 billion in 2019. The last time the country had a deficit in its balance of payments – that is, when it was a net debtor to the rest of the world – was in 2014. Over the years, the Bank of Thailand has stockpiled a large amount of foreign reserves, ending 2019 with $216.8 billion in non-gold holdings, equal to about 40 percent of GDP.

The government has also been running a tight fiscal ship for many years, with expenditures rarely exceeding revenue. There were fiscal deficits only twice from 2013 to 2019, each time less than 1 percent of GDP. As a result, total external debt in 2019 amounted to around 33 percent of GDP, moderate enough that it could be easily covered by the foreign exchange reserves held by the central bank.

Biden Thinks He’s Tough on China. He’s Just Complacent.


The conventional wisdom these days is that U.S. policy on China will not change when President-elect Joe Biden replaces President Donald Trump. The policy, it’s claimed, is bipartisan: Washington has woken up to the Chinese threat; a new Cold War may have already started and if not, one is inevitable sooner or later.

The conventional wisdom is wrong. There is a fundamental choice to be made on how to deal with China, and Biden is very close to picking one alternative. There’s good reason to fear it’s the wrong one.

In every China policy, two elements have to be distinguished. First, there’s the values question. There is not a lot of disagreement on this. Yes, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg once said that China is a democracy or something close to a democracy, but most people know better. The regime in China is fundamentally opposed to Western values.

That Biden understands this better than Trump is not a surprise: Trump was never much interested in promoting human rights and democracy abroad, while Biden—the last of the Cold Warriors—invariably starts from there. At the tenth Democratic debate back in February, when asked if he would allow China to build critical infrastructure in the United States, Biden was much blunter on President Xi Jinping than Trump ever managed to be: “This is a guy who does not have a democratic bone in his body. This is a guy who is a thug, who in fact has a million Uighurs in … concentration camps.”

Why Australia Should Respond to China’s Provocations With Self-Reliance

Sam Roggeveen 

Australia’s government had a minor meltdown last week, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison calling an impromptu press conference to demand an apology for a “repugnant” Twitter post by a Chinese government spokesperson that contained a doctored image of an Australian soldier holding a knife to an Afghan child’s throat. The image, which Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Zhao Lijian tweeted from his verified account, had a caption that read, “Don’t be afraid, we are coming to bring you peace.” Zhao’s accompanying text in the Twitter post expressed shock at the death of Afghan civilians and prisoners at Australian hands, calling for accountability.

A week earlier, the Australian government had released the findings of an official inquiry that documented the murders of 39 Afghan civilians or prisoners by Australian special forces soldiers. Known as the Brereton Report, it was the result of a four-and-a-half-year investigation into allegations of Australian war crimes in Afghanistan. Police investigations into the atrocities described in the report are forthcoming. ...

The Trump State Department’s Swan Song? A Strange, Flawed China Paper.


The U.S. State Department’s new China strategy paper, released on Nov. 20, brings to mind an old line from British playwright Tom Stoppard: “It’s half as long as Das Kapital and only twice as funny.” The document is a slog. It is a mix of a bill of particulars about China’s aggressive tactics, often-strained explanations of Marxist-Leninist theory that recall a college political science paper, ideological jingoism, and, ultimately, 10 ideas for what the United States should do going forward—recommendations that are most notable for what they fail to address.

The topic of the paper is an urgent one. The world has, as the Trump administration’s 2017 National Security Strategy put it, reentered an age of “great power competition.” It is common to talk about relations with Russia and China in this regard, but while Russia’s destructive power—both its arsenal of nuclear weapons and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s penchant for invading neighbors and propping up autocrats—must be taken seriously, the country is a waning power. China is a waxing one, and its dynamic and growing economy and variegated assertions of influence beyond its borders, as well as its revisionist approach to the international order, make it the key actor in precipitating a new era of global competition. The behavior of China’s dictatorial regime and its intended medium-term trajectory are relatively clear. The response of the world’s democracies, and U.S. leadership within that response, is the central geopolitical question of our time.

What is Driving America and China to Clash Over Taiwan?

by Kris Osborn

Here's What You Need to Remember: Most recently, the United States is now amid a deal with Taiwan to offer as many as 108 Abrams main battle tanks. This is quite significant, as the presence of main battle tanks on the Taiwanese mainland certainly strengthens a credible deterrent against a Chinese invasion, by at very least ensuring that a ground invasion could be costly and lengthy for China should it embark upon such a venture.

A prominent Chinese researcher and military expert connected to the People’s Liberation Army is saying that a potential war with the United States over Taiwan independence essentially relies upon Washington, or U.S. actions.

Zhou Bo, an honorary fellow at the Centre for China-America Defence Relations at the Academy of Military Science of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, is quoted in a news story in the South China Morning Post called “U.S.-China relations” as saying “The development of cross-strait relations is not solely decided by the Chinese mainland. It is, on the contrary, a result of the interaction between Taipei, Washington and Beijing.”

The essay goes on to say China is “reluctant to use force against Taiwan because it sees the people as their compatriots.”

What Do We Know About China's H-20 Stealth Bomber?

by Kris Osborn

Here's What You Need To Remember: A great deal remains unknown about the H-20, and China is content to hold its cards close to the chest. However, unlike some other countries, China is not known for exaggerating its military strength, so U.S. and Western defense planners are taking the threat seriously.

China appears to be preparing to unveil its new H-20 stealth bomber, an emerging platform expected to massively extend China’s attack range and present a rival platform to the U.S. B-2 and emerging B-21.

Quoting “military sources,” a report from The New Zealand Herald said the new and still somewhat mysterious H-20 bomber could make its first public appearance at this year’s Zhuhai Airshow in November—depending upon how things progress with the Coronavirus Pandemic. 

The H-20 could, of course depending upon its technological configuration, bring a new level of threat to the United States, for a number of reasons.

How China Is Learning From Russia's War In Syria

by Lyle J. Goldstein

It has long been recognized that the closer alignment between Moscow and Beijing that goes back nearly three decades now provides each with ample political and diplomatic benefits. A less well explored aspect of the relationship could examine how these partners learn from one another in various domains, including in the crucial area of strategy. I have pointed out in this forum before that Chinese strategists have looked carefully at the war in Ukraine and the related Crimea annexation. This edition of Dragon Eye takes a close look at a Chinese assessment of Russia’s military intervention in Syria.

China’s interpretation of the Syrian War could turn out to be quite significant. I have recently argued in that Beijing could play a major role as one among several disinterested (and thus neutral) major powers in helping to fashion a diplomatic solution to the Gordian knot that is the Syria situation today. Such a role would be quite consistent with its ambitions to be a genuinely global power, providing global public goods for international security, and simultaneously facilitating the opening of vast trade corridors spanning Eurasia. Yet, there is a potentially darker side of China’s examination of the Syrian War. Indeed, there is a danger revealed in this late 2017 study published in the journal Russian, East European and Central Asian Studies [俄罗斯东欧中亚研究] of the prestigious Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Put simply, that danger is that Chinese strategists could conclude that the Russian war in Syria provides a valuable paradigm for possible future Chinese uses of force in distant theaters as “anti-terrorism military operations [反恐军事行动].”

Biden’s Vision of US-China Relations Begins to Take Shape

US president-elect Joe Biden did an interview with the New York Times earlier this week, in which he touched down on a variety of subjects ranging from the fate of the Iran nuclear deal to economic stimulus.

The discussion also broached upon what US-China relations might look like under a Biden administration. And, if taken at face value, the president-elect’s words will be causing considerable concern in Beijing. Put simply, they suggest that the Trump approach to US-China relations was no exception; rather, it could well become the rule moving forward.

There were two highly consequential tidbits on US-China relations under a Biden presidency.

The first is that a Biden administration would not immediately remove the 25 percent tariffs levied during the Trump administration – tariffs that currently cover nearly half of all Chinese exports to the United States. Biden would also seek to implement President Trump’s Phase 1 deal, which requires China to increase its purchases of US goods by nearly $200 billion in order to offset the bilateral trade balance.

Biden’s support of the Phase 1 deal is surprising given his damning assessment that it was ‘failing badly’ just a few months ago. But the pressure his administration will be under to maintain an assertive China policy is less so.

With the Chang'e 5 launch, China takes a giant leap forward in the race to the moon


The Chang’e-5 lunar sample return mission has roared into space atop a Long March 5 rocket. If all goes well, it will touch down at the Mons Rumker part of the Oceanus Procellarum or Ocean of Storms, a volcanic plain on the near side of the moon. 

The Ocean of Storms was previously visited by the Apollo 12 mission about 50 years ago. The target area consists of rock and soil that is just 1.2 billion years old, thanks to a volcanic event that took place then.

The Chang’e-5 mission is the most complex that China has attempted. The lander portion will attempt to take samples with both a scoop and a drill and store them in an ascent vehicle. The ascent vehicle will blast off and then rendezvous and dock with another vehicle in lunar orbit The samples will then be transferred into an Earth return module, which will take them back to China for study.

Iran and Saudi Arabia Battle for Supremacy in the Middle East

The struggle between Iran and Saudi Arabia for dominance in the Middle East has insinuated itself into nearly every regional issue, fracturing international alliances and sustaining wars across the region, while raising fears of a direct conflict between the two powers that could involve the U.S.

Saudi Arabia has ramped up its regional adventurism since Mohammed bin Salman, the powerful son of King Salman known as MBS, was appointed crown prince in 2017. And it has cracked down on its domestic critics, including the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018 in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. That had little effect on the crown prince’s close ties to the Trump administration, though. Determined to undermine the Iranian regime, Washington pulled out of the nuclear deal with Tehran and used its economic might to suffocate Iran’s economy, bringing the two countries to the brink of war in January. President-elect Joe Biden has promised to reengage diplomatically with Iran—and to make respect for human rights a central pillar of his foreign policy. The potential implications for U.S. partners in the Middle East, particularly Saudi Arabia, are significant.

The U.S. and Iran quickly backed away from escalation to open warfare after the U.S. assassination of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani in January. But the Middle East is rife with other ongoing conflicts, including a civil war in Yemen that has fueled one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, another in Syria that may finally be reaching a no-less bloody endgame, and one in Libya that has seen a respite since a tenuous cease-fire was implemented in October. These conflicts exist on two levels: domestic battles for control of the countries’ futures, and proxy wars fueled by the regional powers, as well as Russia and—in the case of Libya—France.

Chronology of Possible Russian Gray Area and Hybrid Warfare Operations

By Anthony H. Cordesman with the assistance of Grace Hwang

Anthony H. Cordesman with the assistance of Grace Hwang

This chronology explores the full range of Russian competition with the United States. It focuses on the need to address all of the key aspects of this competition, including Russia’s “gray area,” hybrid warfare, and multi-domain/joint combined-domain operations.

It takes a different approach to defining such operations from those used in a number of official sources and other reports. As is discussed later in this chronology, the official and other open source reporting now available have serious limits.

As a result, this chronology is designed to illustrate key patterns in Russian activity that compete directly and indirectly with the United States, and it serves as a starting point for a more comprehensive analysis. It highlights the need to look beyond the boundaries of the current definitions of “gray area,” hybrid warfare, and multi-domain operations, as well as beyond the narrow focus on direct competition between the U.S. and Russia that excludes indirect competition involving other countries and non-state actors as well as Russia’s increasing cooperation with China.

It stresses the need to give the civil side of competition the same priority as the military and war fighting aspects of U.S. and Russian competition – and to do so on a global basis that stresses the fact that the most successful form of competition may be in the lower-level gray areas where there is little or no direct use of force in combat.

Western Europe Is Losing Its Immigrants


 Svilengrad is a small Bulgarian city of around 18,000 people on the border with Turkey. It is mostly known for two very profitable endeavors: casinos and customs. And like many other small cities in Central and Eastern Europe, it has been rapidly losing people to migration in recent decades. Yet this spring, something totally unexpected happened: a population boom. “They have been returning from everywhere, mostly Western Europe,” Anastas Karchev, the mayor of Svilengrad, said in a phone conversation in November.

It isn’t that Svilengrad has become Las Vegas overnight, attracting scores of British or French high rollers. Rather, the city is just one of many places affected by COVID-19 migration, a quiet tsunami that has been sweeping the eastern part of the European continent along with the pandemic.

The trend first became noticeable in late March. At that time, a Bulgarian official involved in the pandemic response announced that tens of thousands Bulgarians had already returned that month. By early summer, hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians had come home. Similar waves swept the rest of the region.

What Is Europe’s ‘Once-in-a-Generation’ Offer to America?


Aformer European Union official—apparently in good faith and with genuine intentions—once told me one of my articles about European foreign policy did not have enough “buzzwords” and proceeded to list various terms and phrases to sprinkle throughout my text. I politely declined the edits. But the comment was emblematic of a general emphasis in European policy circles on formulating a catchy headline, alongside perhaps some flashy visuals, as a way of drawing attention but not stimulating constructive debate. Improving Europe’s so-called strategic culture has ironically itself become more of a slogan than a practical aim.

To the extent that Europe is openly debating any foreign-policy issue at present, it is the transatlantic relationship. It has been bracing to see French President Emmanuel Macron and German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer offer their opposing views. The EU, for its part, has rejected the “false debates” between transatlanticists and Europeanists—which have pitched the two paths as mutually exclusive—as a cul-de-sac, and instead argued strength reinforces strength on both sides of the Atlantic.

This week, the EU’s national leaders will meet to decide the strategy to offer toward its transatlantic partner. They will do so against the background of recommendations issued last week by the European Commission and the European External Action Service for policy proposals spanning the whole gamut of transatlantic issues, such as pandemics, climate change, trade, technology, security, and defense. Gesturing to what could be the most transatlanticist U.S. administration in decades with the election of Joe Biden to the presidency, the EU stressed the need to seize this “once-in-a-generation opportunity.”

The Biden team will find in Europe real partners beset by conflicting trends: greater ambition but fewer resources, visions of autonomy combined with the reality of interdependence, in search of strategy but with disjointed tactics, with good intentions but discordant outcomes. The main challenge for both sides will be to translate high-level strategic agreement into concrete policies that can deliver tangible results in the short term and over time.

The United States Must Marshal the “Free World”

By Alexander Vindman

At noon on January 20, 2021, Joseph R. Biden will be sworn in as the 46th president of the United States. He will confront a daunting domestic agenda: the legacy of outgoing President Donald Trump will include a rampant pandemic and a host of unresolved social, cultural, ideological, economic, and administrative problems. Having committed himself to being the president of all Americans, Biden will need to contend with the grievances of millions who did not support him and who even question the legitimacy of his election. These domestic concerns will understandably consume the preponderance of the president’s time and energy.

But Biden’s de facto leadership of the “free world” beyond the United States’ borders will be equally important. China, Russia, and other authoritarian states, which have long seen democracy as an existential threat, are on the offensive, deploying all means of statecraft—diplomatic, informational, military, and economic—to advance their

Contending with climate change: the next 25 years

By Robert Socolow

The centennials of Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and the founding of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists are only 25 years ahead. When I think about the next 25 years, I see the people of this planet wrestling with a reality that has only recently emerged. For the first time in human history, we human beings, doing ordinary things, can alter our entire planet in ways that are harmful to ourselves. And every available strategy to work around these limitations is fraught, so we need to be clever and clearheaded and wary. Fitting on our planet, rather than bursting its seams, is going to be difficult. It will preoccupy many successive generations.

Climate is one of many examples of potential seam-bursting—others include arable land and fisheries—but climate is the one I have thought most about. We are vulnerable to environmental disruption because what makes us distinctly human is finely tuned to a planet that has been quite stable. An apt example is sea level rise. During Earth’s exit from the most recent ice age, from approximately 14,000 to 6,000 years ago, sea level rose 130 meters. But it has changed very little during the past six millennia, with the result that a large fraction of the world’s cities have been built at the edge of an unchanging sea. A mere two meters of sea level rise would require extensive changes to these cities and abandonment of some of them.

The largest agent of the climate portion of our newly challenging reality is the carbon dioxide that results when we burn fossil fuels. Because of their high energy density, it is economic to move fossil fuels over global distances by rail and ship and pipeline, enabling global markets. Costs are modest because the best geological sources are highly concentrated: thick seams of coal and expansive reservoirs of oil and natural gas. And the fossil fuels are abundant, in the sense that they could meet our needs for centuries (although probably not for millennia).

How to protect the world from ultra-targeted biological weapons

By Filippa Lentzos

The potential reach of the state into our individual biology and genetic makeup is expanding at an unprecedented rate. Global responses to the COVID-19 pandemic have crystallized just how quickly and readily machines, algorithms, and computing power can be combined with biological data and used in technologies that subjugate bodies and control populations.

As the Chinese city of Wuhan went into lockdown, the authorities carried out large-scale remote temperature measurements of households in apartment complexes through drones equipped with infrared cameras. Drones were also used to patrol public places, tracking whether people were travelling outside without face masks or violating other quarantine rules. Chinese police forces debuted augmented reality (AR) smart glasses powered by artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities, designed to recognize individuals with potential COVID-19 symptoms. The glasses have facial recognition capability to identify and profile individuals in real-time and can also record photos and videos. As Wuhan started to open up again, the authorities introduced “Health Code,” an app people were required to use when entering and exiting residential areas, supermarkets, subways, and taxis, among other spaces. The app stores your personal information, including your ID number, where you live, whether you have been with people carrying the virus, and what symptoms they had. As you touch in or out on entering or exiting, the app gives you a colour: green means you can go anywhere, yellow means you have to quarantine for 7 days, red for 14 days. The app also surreptitiously collects—and shares with the police—your location data.

And this type of surveillance wasn’t used just in China. A range of countries have adopted intrusive and coercive forms of surveillance and use of personal and biological data reminiscent of dystopian novels like Nineteen Eighty-Four and Brave New World. As other countries went into lockdown, surveillance cameras with facial recognition tracked quarantine evaders or gauged elevated temperatures of potentially infected individuals in crowds. Fine-grained location data transmitted from mobile phones determined how many people were obeying lockdown orders, fever-detecting cameras screened travellers arriving at airports, and algorithms monitored social media posts for signs of COVID-19’s spread. Contact-tracing apps, centrally storing user interactions, provide “social graphs” of who you have physically met over a period of time. “Immunity passports” or “risk free certificates” combine facial recognition technology with COVID-19 testing and medical records.

Facts and opinions about climate change

By Richard C. J. Somerville

When the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists was founded, climate change science was in its infancy. There were no global climate models, no supercomputers, and no satellite remote-sensing data. Only a few visionaries understood that man-made increases in the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) might cause large global climate changes. The definitive summary of atmospheric science in the decade after World War II was the Compendium of Meteorology, a large multi-authored volume published in 1951 by the American Meteorological Society. Its article on climate change, written by the distinguished British climatologist C. E. P. Brooks, reflects the prevailing expert opinion of that time.

The article began with this statement:

“In the past hundred years the burning of coal has increased the amount of CO2 by a measurable amount (from 0.028 to 0.030 per cent), and Callendar (1939) sees in this an explanation of the recent rise in world temperature. But during the past 7,000 years there have been greater fluctuations of temperature without the intervention of man, and there seems to be no reason to regard the recent rise as more than a coincidence. This theory is not considered further.”

It is important to distinguish between facts and opinions. “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.” Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who said that, was a wise and accomplished American politician, sociologist, and diplomat. Like everybody, I know some facts, and I have some opinions. I will first summarize the facts that we have learned from the science of climate change. Then I will give some opinions about what people and governments should do.

The United States Must Marshal the “Free World”

By Alexander Vindman

At noon on January 20, 2021, Joseph R. Biden will be sworn in as the 46th president of the United States. He will confront a daunting domestic agenda: the legacy of outgoing President Donald Trump will include a rampant pandemic and a host of unresolved social, cultural, ideological, economic, and administrative problems. Having committed himself to being the president of all Americans, Biden will need to contend with the grievances of millions who did not support him and who even question the legitimacy of his election. These domestic concerns will understandably consume the preponderance of the president’s time and energy.

But Biden’s de facto leadership of the “free world” beyond the United States’ borders will be equally important. China, Russia, and other authoritarian states, which have long seen democracy as an existential threat, are on the offensive, deploying all means of statecraft—diplomatic, informational, military, and economic—to advance their

Forget Greenland, There’s a New Strategic Gateway to the Arctic


Jenis av Rana, foreign minister of the Faroe Islands, was excited on the morning of July 22. In his 25-year-long career as a member of the Faroese Parliament for the Christian Conservative party, he occasionally met with colleagues from Iceland or Greenland or even different Scandinavian countries. But he hadn’t even been foreign minister for a year, when on that Wednesday morning he was preparing to meet U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Pompeo was in Copenhagen, and quite untraditionally, had decided to invite the foreign ministers of the self-governing parts of the Danish Kingdom—Greenland and the Faroes—to join him and the Danish foreign minister for a meeting. For the tiny Faroese department of foreign relations, it was the culmination of many years of work that such a high-profile U.S. official was willing to talk directly to the Faroese government.

But more than anything, the invitation was a sign of the growing strategic importance the Faroe Islands, as an Arctic nation, are beginning to have. Four months later, on Nov. 28, the tiny island group—which sells a quarter of its fish to Russia and was about to commit to a 5G agreement with the controversial Chinese telecom firm Huawei—signed a partnership declaration with the United States.

A New Path Forward for NATO and Russia

by Sergey Rogov Adam Thomson Alexander Vershbow

The security situation in Europe has deteriorated to its lowest point in the past three decades. Since 2014, NATO and Russian ground, naval and air forces operate in much closer proximity, resulting sometimes in dangerous “buzzing” and near misses. The arms control and confidence-building regime established in the late 1980s and 1990s has badly frayed. Previous NATO-Russia lines of communication have broken down.

These developments combine to undermine trust and increase the possibility of an accident or incident that could lead to an armed conflict that neither the Alliance nor Russia wants. They should, as a matter of priority, work to reduce the risk of a military confrontation.

Americans, Russians and Europeans should be concerned about this.

Over the past four months, we have joined with more than thirty other security experts, including retired diplomats and military officers from the United States, Russia and other European countries, for detailed discussions on how NATO and Russia might reduce the risk of inadvertent conflict. We came together because of concern that the prospects of such a clash have grown alarmingly high.

The Geopolitics of Cybersecurity

By David Koh

By some accounts, espionage has existed since 500 B.C. Chefs in charge of cooking feasts in the ancient Mediterranean city of Sybaris (in modern day southern Italy) protested against competitors copying their prized recipes. City leaders then afforded these chefs exclusive rights to their recipes for a year, recording one of the earliest examples of intellectual property rights protection.

At around the same time, Sun Tzu wrote his seminal treatise “The Art of War” in China. Among its 13 chapters, an entire (and indeed, the final) chapter was devoted to spy-craft and intelligence collection.

The conduct of such clandestine operations has existed since ancient times. What has changed since those days is the evolution of technology, but the core concept of espionage has persisted until today: both states and enterprises have secrets that others want to get their hands on.

In today’s digital environment, our data and assets are increasingly being stored in computer systems and networks – and now, the cloud. The threats don’t come only from nearby cities or neighboring states; the digital environment has flattened or collapsed geography as we understand it.

AI In The Grey Zone: Afghan Lessons For Great Power Conflict


The same Algorithmic Warfare Cross Functional Team that developed Project Maven to track terrorists is now applying their technology to great-power conflict with advanced nation-states, said Richard Schultz, a professor at Tuft University’s Fletcher School who co-wrote a recent article on AI with SOCOM’s four-star commander, Gen. Richard Clarke.

“They’re broadening out to the peer competitor fight, and they have some very interesting initiatives with the 82nd Airborne Division, and the 18th Airborne [Corps],” Schultz said on a Hudson Institute webcast this afternoon. “The division wants to be the first AI-enabled division in the Army, and the corps, the first [AI-enabled] corps.”

Special Operations Command’s Gen. Richard Clarke with students at the Special Forces Qualification Course.

SOCOM was forced to adopt AI – and before that, databases and analytics – to handle the sheer volume of information it was collecting, from drone surveillance video to the outgoing call logs of captured cellphones to the biometric data so crucial to the surge in Iraq.